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Thursday, June 11, 2009

China internet filter challenged

We read recently how the media output and input in China was rather strong-handedly approached by the blocking of youtube, myspace, twitter, amongst others. And this is an even more clear show of strength. And wow on two fronts - perhaps immortalizing the perennial Chinese habit of building walls, looks like the great Chinese firewall (officially known as the Golden Shield Project) is about to sink grindingly into history books as the 'fifth' major wall to be built in the last two thousand years. Second - wow that the Chinese people are speaking up and out. How far can they take this before the CCP uses an iron fist? Something worth monitoring.

Certainly an interesting contraction (but not unexpected) after many years of steady opening up. Would like to read what the West will (or rather not, and keep quiet due to the new status quo), or will not say this time.


China internet filter challenged
The Straits Times
June 11 2009

BEIJING - A CHINESE lawyer has demanded a public hearing to reconsider a government demand that all new personal computers carry Internet filtering software, adding to uproar over a plan critics say is ineffective and intrusive.

Li Fangping, a Beijing human rights advocate who often embraces controversial causes, has asked the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to allow hearings on the 'lawfulness and reasonableness' of the demand, which takes effect from July 1 and was publicised only this week.

'This administrative action lacks a legal basis,' Mr Li wrote in a submission to the ministry that was sent to reporters by email on Thursday. 'Designating that the same software must be installed in all computers affects citizens' rights to choose.'
Mr Li's demand, and denunciations of the plan from Chinese rights groups, have expanded a public battle over the 'Green Dam' filtering software, despite a state media effort to promote the software as a welcome way to prevent children being exposed to pornography.

Many citizens worry such software and other measures are being imposed to deter discussion of sensitive political topics, especially in this year of controversial anniversaries, Mr Li told Reuters.

'Above all, we're concerned about freedom of speech and the right to know,' he said. 'We know that citizens have been prosecuted because of their private emails, and we're worried about more such cases.'

Chinese human rights and gay advocacy groups have demanded the software plan be immediately quashed. A statement from five groups sent by email said the software threatened to cripple access to many of the gay community websites that have flourished in recent years.

The software works by judging whether website pages may show large amounts of exposed flesh.

Wan Yanhai, a leader of the Beijing-based Aizhixing organisation, which works on AIDS and gay rights, said he was preparing a mass petition to mobilise opposition to the software.

'We need to demand not just the lifting of this software decree, but also an end to restrictions on gay publications,' Mr Wan told Reuters. 'This is about opposing censorship.'

BEIJING - CHINESE state media on Thursday issued an unprecedented defense of newly required Internet filtering software that must be packaged with every computer sold in China starting next month, after a public outcry at home and abroad.

Although the government says the software is aimed at blocking violence and pornography, users who have tried it say it prevents access to a wide range of topics, from discussions of homosexuality to images of comic book characters such as Garfield the cat.